Muy Frijo
At coffee with a friend this morning, I asked him what the Spanish word for cold was. He said 'Frijo', and then had to think, 'Masculine or feminine? Oh yeah, Muy frijo. Masculine."

If it is true that language affects what we think (it is apparently not true that Eskimos have a thousand words for snow, but the words available do affect what we can think about), but also how we think, the absence of gender in English words makes for a less lively dialogue with the world.

R. A. Lafferty had a story about an inventor Charles Cogsworth, who invented a Cerebral Scanner, which allowed the user to see the world through another's eyes. All worked well until he used it on his girlfriend, Valerie Mok. She saw life in everything, "to her the grass itself is like clumps of snakes, and the world itself is flesh." She could hear worms moving in the earth and the stuff gurgling in the stomach of birds flying by. Since Cogsworth dealt only in cold mechanical things, this disgusted him and things got cold between the two, until she got hold of the Cerebral Scanner, used it on him and confronted him with how empty his view of the world was.

I'm not going to give up my modern English worldview, even if it is somewhat frijo (coldly masculine), because I enjoy indoor plumbing too much, but there is something to be said for appreciating all the animated life that is out there even in something as calm as grass. It can be scary as well (remember the animated topiary in The Shining?) but when life gets to be just the commute to work to sit at a terminal, commute home to watch tv and go to sleep, a little bit of fear might be exciting.

All this scientific undertone that has replaced the sprites behind every tree and the monsters under the bed, is exciting and interesting too, but it also causes us sometimes to strip away the sheer joy of living.

Although 'Happy Solstice' conjures up mostly good images, you don't hear it much this time of year, except for a few fringe folks. What you hear is mostly 'Happy Holidays'. I'm not against that phrase -- it includes both Christmas and New Years and saves four syllables in doing so -- but it robs the season of some of its subtext.

I'm not making a religious point here. I'm not going to pound you about the reason for the season or anything like that.

But, although I grew up in a non religious family, we celebrated Christmas. We got and gave gifts and after a while we gave and got gifts. We drove around to look at the pretty Christmas lights on all the houses. The days, even in Arizona, grew muy frijo (invigorating) and you could see your breath. We thought more of each other and were kind, kinder, well slightly more kind. The message of the Christ of Christmas, after all, is "Love your neighbor."

That is what I remember, that is what I think of when I hear "Merry Christmas," and that is what I mean when I say it to you.

So after years of being politically correct, I've changed back. From my tradition, to yours, be it Channuka, Kwanza, Solstice or whatever, Merry Christmas.